LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN McCRAE and Poem in Flanders Fields
Each November, Poppies blossom on the lapels and collars of over half of Canada’s entire population. Since 1921, the Poppy has stood as a symbol of Remembrance, our visual pledge to never forget all those Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations. The Poppy also stands internationally as a “symbol of collective reminiscence”, as other countries have also adopted its image to honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
This significance of the Poppy can be traced to international origins.
The association of the Poppy to those who had been killed in war has existed since the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, over 110 years before being adopted in Canada. There exists a record from that time of how thickly Poppies grew over the graves of soldiers in the area of Flanders, France. This early connection between the Poppy and battlefield deaths described how fields that were barren before the battles exploded with theblood-red flowers after the fighting ended.
Just prior to the First World War, few Poppies grew in Flanders. During the tremendous bombardments of that war, the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing “popaver rhoes” to thrive. When the war ended, the lime was quickly absorbed and the Poppy began to disappear again.
The person who was responsible more than any other for the adoption of the Poppy as a symbol of Remembrance in Canada and the Commonwealth was Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer during the First World War.
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN McCRAE
Lt. Col. John McCrae Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae was born on 30 November 1872 in Guelph, Ontario. At age 14, he joined the Highfield Cadet Corps and, three years later, enlisted in the Militia field battery. While attending the University of Toronto Medical School, he was a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.
With Britain declaring war on Germany on 4 August 1914, Canada’s involvement was automatic. John McCrae was among the first wave of Canadians who enlisted to serve and he was appointed as brigade surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery.
In April 1915, John McCrae was stationed near Ypres, Belgium, the area traditionally called Flanders. It was there, during the Second Battle of Ypres, that some of the fiercest fighting of the First World War occurred. Working from a dressing station on the banks of the Yser Canal, dressing hundreds of wounded soldiers from wave after wave of relentless enemy attack, he observed how “we are weary in body and wearier in mind. The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare.”
In May, 1915, on the day following the death of fellow soldier Lt Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, John McCrae wrote his now famous work, an expression of his anguish over the loss of his friend and a reflection of his surroundings – wild Poppies growing amid simple wooden crosses marking makeshift graves. These 15 lines, written in 20 minutes, captured an exact description of the sights and sounds of the area around him.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae left Ypres with these memorable few lines scrawled on a scrap of paper. His words were a poem which started, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow…” Little did he know then that these 15 lines would become enshrined in the innermost thoughts and hearts of all soldiers who hear them. Through his words, the scarlet Poppy quickly became the symbol for soldiers who died in battle.
The poem was first published on 8 December 1915 in England, appearing in “Punch” magazine.
IN FLANDERS FIELD
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
POPPY CHAIRMAN - John Sherman
As part of your oath to join the Legion you are required to participate in the Poppy Campaign. We need everyone to participate as many times as they can to make this a big success. Don’t let a few people do the work of many. All of the stores are a major source of revenue for us.
All the stores need to be manned as much as possible.100% of the time would be great and we can be achieved this if you volunteer more than once.
Sign up boards will be in place in mid October. Sign up where you can and as often as you can. This money is used for Veterans and so many other uses.
Even if you think you volunteered in the past and you don’t have to again... please reconsider as it is your duty to participate.
Just imagine the impact we could make if every member volunteered even 1 hour of their time to our Poppy Campaign. Come out and meet other members in this worth while endeavour. This is our major fundraiser of the year for the Poppy Fund. John McCrae poem speaks of Flanders fields, but the subject is universal – the fear of the dead that they will be forgotten, that their death will have been in vain. Remembrance, as symbolized by the Poppy, is our eternal answer which belies that fear.
Sadly, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae died of pneumonia at Wimereux, France on 28 January 1918. He was 45 years old.
THE FLOWER OF REMEMBRANCE An American teacher, Moina Michael, while working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ headquarters in New York City in November 1918, read John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. She immediately made “a personal pledge to keep the faith and vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance and as an emblem for keeping the faith with all who died".
Two years later, during a 1920 visit to the United States, a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom. On her return to France, she decided to use handmade Poppies to raise money for the destitute children in war-torn areas of the country. Following the example of Madame Guerin, the Great War Veterans’ Association in Canada (the predecessor of The Royal Canadian Legion) officially adopted the Poppy as its Flower of Remembrance on 5 July 1921.
Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear the Legion’s lapel Poppy each November, the little red plant has never died. And neither have Canadian’s memories for 117,000 of their countrymen who died in battle
A SYMBOL OF UNITY
At 0530 hours on the morning of 9 April 1917, the Battle of Vimy Ridge began, marking an important milestone in our military history. For the next few days, Canadian troops fought relentlessly, braving enemy forces, a heavily-fortified ridge and the weather. This battle was significant; not only was it a resounding success for Canada but, in the words of Brigadier-General A.E. Ross, it marked the “birth of a nation”. No longer would Canada be overshadowed by the military strength of her allies.
This battle had proven Canada’s ability as a formidable force in the theatre of war.
The bravery, discipline and sacrifice that Canadian troops displayed during those few days are now legendary. The battle represented a memorable unification of our personnel resources as troops from all Canadian military divisions, from all parts of Canada and from all walks of life, joined to collectively overcome the powerful enemy at considerable odds. Our troops united to defeat adversity and a military threat to the world.
Now, decades later, Canadians stand united in their Remembrance as they recognize and honour the selfless acts of our troops from all wars.
We realize that it is because of our war veterans that we exist as a proud and free nation.
Today, when people from all parts of Canada and from all walks of life join together in their pledge to never forget, they choose to display this collective reminiscence by wearing a Poppy. They stand united as Canadians sharing a common history of sacrifice and commitment.
Gordon Gibbins, Joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1941 at age 17. Trained as a Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee ASDIC (Pinger) or better known as Sonar Operator in later ships. Sailed on HMCS Sans Peur, HMCS Kootenay, D-Day support, HMCS Trentonian, in the Battle of the Atlantic. Gord survived the sinking of HMCS Trentonian on 22 February 1945 protecting a convoy in the North Atlantic.
We just heard Gord crossed the bar May 2, 2018. One of a few of our World War II Veterans. He will be sadly missed by all that the Lindsay Legion. We send our condolences to his family.
Surname, Christian Name: Wilkinson, Ernest
Place of birth: Lindsay Apparent age: 32 years
Peter Healey, Joined the Royal Air Force in 1943 at age 19. Trained as a pilot/Navigator/Bomb aimer. Peter then re-mustered to be the tail gunner. One of 7 members in a crew. Flew Wellington 2 engine Bomber, B24 Liberator 4 engine Bomber, and the famous Lancaster 4 engine bomber. Peter saw action over Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Italy, and was preparing to go to Japan when the war ended.
Bill Laidley Joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1943 at the age of 16 years old. He joined the Lindsay Legion with his father when he was home on leave during the war and he is still a member today. During the war he served on the HMCS St Pierre K680 as a Marine Engineer (stoker) doing convoy escort.
Bill told us this interesting story about his naval experience in World War 2. As the war was winding down his ship was slotted for a convoy escort JW67 heading form Greenock Scotland going to north Russia. As they where proceeding to Russia they where diverted, ordered to rendezvous with and escort German Submarines that had capitulated off the southern coast of Norway and take them back to Scotland under the agreed surrender conditions.
While underway in a fjord in the north of Scotland. Bill had completed his duty watch form the engine room around 2300 (11pm) he headed topside coming out on the 12-pounder gun deck. He noticed that the submarine tied up along side (abreast) of his ship and the conning tower of the captured submarine was at his deck level. Up until that time he had never seen a German Submarine up close. While he was standing there looking at the submarine, the captain of the submarine came up onto the coning tower and Bill said to the captain “how are you tonight sir” to his absolute surprise in perfect English the captain said “I’m fine how are you” Bill then said to the captain “ you can speak good English” The captain then replied “ He had studied in McGill university in Montréal and was a helmsman on the Taddy Shack ship during the summer months and just before war broke out he headed back to Germany with all of the charts of the St Lawrence river and seaway”. The conversation ended abruptly as someone came up to the conning tower from below. At the time he said he had never heard of Pierre Trudeau and wondered if he was sympathetic to the Nazi’s cause?
Douglas Louch, Joined Royal Canadian Navy April 1949. Was trained as a Communications Operator (Com Ops) Served on HMCS LaHulloise (frigate), HMCS Crescent (destroyer), HMCS Prestoian (frigate), HMCS Chignecto, (Minesweeper). HMCS Iroquois destined for the Korean War. On an operation near Songjin, North Korea, took on enemy fire killing 3 and wounding 10. This was the only casualties to the RCN for the Korean War. Reenlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force 1954 as a Radio Operator. Many postings. Retired form the CAF in December 1975. Lastly Joined the Canadian Coast Guard.
John Danilko, enlisted in the Canadian Army, with the Royal Canadian Regiment, 1st Battalion on October 16th 1951 and went through basic training in Petawawa. His 1st Battalion was later changed to the 2nd Battalion, and then later 3rd Battalion. He served in Korea with the "Special Force" involved in engagement with the enemy at Hill 355, and then onto guarding POW`s a Kojedo Island. He served in Germany with NATO Force. John received his honourable discharge on June 7 1955. His medals include the Korea medal, UN service medal (Korea) Special Medal NATO, UN Peacekeeping Medal, Volunteer Service Medal (Korea). John currently resides in Lindsay where he is a member of Sir Sam Hughes Branch 67 of the Royal Canadian Legion with 26 years service.
Philip N Lilly, Joined the Royal Canadian Air Force Police (Military Police) in 1956 until 1966. Philip Lilly, was a teacher, Hospital CEO, and now a snow bird in the winter. Was an active member in the Legions over the years.
Don Scott, Was in the Royal Canadian Navy as a Marine Engineer (Stoker) He owns a roofing company here in Lindsay.
Ed Baker, Enlisted in the Army in June 1953. Served with the Royal Canadian Signal Corps with a multitude of different jobs. Honorable discharged in 1956. Ed has been a active member of Sir Sam Hughes Legion Branch 67 and Highland Creek Legion Branch 258 for 35 years.
Charles Olito, Joined the Royal Air Force in 1948 1956. Trained as a Cpl Wireless Fitter. Three years posted Air Scientific Recovery (Security) Unit, (ASRU) 1954 Wing Commanders Office Selecting (Radio) sites for 1955 exercises. 1955 Exercises and First Mobile Field Trials. Modern day Telephone System and Electronic Cyphers
Lieutenant Colonel (LCol) Ron Neal CD (Ret`d) Enrolled in the Lincoln and Welland Regiment as a Private 1964. Served with 2 Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) as a reserve call out to Germany in 1967. Commissioned Lieutenant 1971. Graduated Militia Command and Staff Course Kingston Ontario 1989. Commanding Officer of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment 1990 - 1993. Commanded Toronto District Infantry Battalion, Military Concentration Petawawa 1992. Currently the Secretary Treasurer of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment Trust Fund.
Michael Wilkinson born and raised in Lindsay from a proud military family. Joined the Army in 1981. After basic training 12 weeks in Cornwallis moved on to do his TQ3s course for 6 months in Petewawa with 1 Royal Canadian Regiment (1RCR) in London Ontario from 1981-1983. Posted to the Airborne Regiment 3 commando12 platoon also with Van Doos Regiment 1 Commando French Recce Company then on to the Pathfinder unit. Lastly posted to the Scottish Regiment (Kilt) Vancouver Island as an Instructor for new recruits.
Tom Cook, was born in Toronto, on 14th July 1932. He enlisted in the Canadian Army on September 14th 1952 serving in Canada and Korea. The Canadian artillery stopped firing high explosive shells at Chinese positions a few minutes before the truce was signed, even though offcially both sides were permitted action until the ceasefire went into effect exactly 12 hours after the truce was signed. The only action by Canadian Gunners was firing of four smoke shells. These last smoke shells where fired by the crew which included Gunner Tomas Cook. Following his honourable discharge on 30th September 1954, Tom joined the Toronto Scottish Regiment Reserves. He was employed by the city of Toronto for a total of 26 years in the Department of Roads and Traffic before layoff due to government cutbacks. He eventually moved to Kirkfield where he resides with his wife Fran.